A little more than 25 years ago, Replica Chopard co-president Karl-Friedrich Scheufele looked out on the watch landscape and decided the brand should no longer be wholly dependent on supplied movements.
In 1996, Chopard’s first in-house calibre 1.96 (named for the year of its birth) started ticking. The following year, the 1.96 made its debut in an elegant three-hand watch with a date function named L.U.C 1860, a tribute to Louis-Ulysse Chopard, who founded his own watch manufactory in the Swiss village of Sonvillier. The sign on the building read L.U.C (for L.U.Chopard), and the year was, you guessed it, 1860.
This year, Chopard is celebrating the silver jubilee of its L.U.C manufacture movements with nine anniversary models in total. While several offer new takes on existing L.U.Cs, a few standouts include the L.U.C Quattro Spirit 25, the brand’s first in-house jumping hour; the L.U.C QF Jubilee, the first L.U.C crafted in stainless steel endowed with a Fleurier Quality Foundation certification; a duo of edgy travel watches in high-tech ceramized titanium; and, for the Shanghai Watches & Wonders event, a duo of L.U.C Flying T Twin Ladies tourbillons.
In the mid-1990s, as mechanical watches were rebounding from the Quartz Crisis, it was considerably ambitious for a small independent brand like Chopard to set its sights on becoming a full-fledged manufacture.
At the time, the industry was heavily reliant on sourcing movements from powerhouses like ETA and other specialists, so building your own was a key way to differentiate yourself in a competitive market. But establishing a manufacture is no small feat, especially before the golden age of CAD and CNC machines.
For Chopard, it all started in 1994 in a leased room behind a blue door in an ETA production facility in Fleurier, Switzerland. There, a team of eight began work on what would become the Caliber 1.96. From the start, Scheufele made it clear he was not interested in producing just an average automatic workhorse. He demanded something that would put his in-house watches on the map, even among the most discriminating collectors, like him.
“For me, the very first L.U.C movement had to bring some real innovation, which we introduced with the twin-stacked barrels and the quality of energy they provided,” Scheufele said in press materials. “Also, while other micro-rotor movements were unidirectional in their winding, we wanted an ultra-efficient bi-directional winding system. Finally, the Poinçon de Genève and the COSC chronometer certification was, to me, the ultimate statement of the authenticity of our work.”
In 2000, Chopard purchased the entire building, and today, the Chopard Manufacture occupies 3,300 square meters (about 35,500 square feet) and employs 150 people working in 21 traditional horological crafts. The original workshop on the second floor still exists behind that blue door.
Over the past two and half decades, Chopard has introduced 11 caliber families and over 100 variations, and it protects L.U.C’s exclusivity by limiting production to only about 4,500 pieces per year.
Throughout its history, Chopard Manufacture has never produced a jumping-hour watch – until now. The elegant 40mm L.U.C Quattro Spirit 25 in the brand’s ethically sourced 18K rose-gold case recalls similar pieces from a bygone era.
Jumping hours translate the time into a digital display with a disc for the hour and either a hand or additional disc displaying minutes. The concept originated in 19th-century pocket watches and was naturally suited for the sleek modern wristwatches emerging in the early 20th century.
Admittedly esoteric, jumping hours clearly aren’t for everyone – which is why I have a particular affinity for them, and why I’m happy to see them making something of a comeback this year. Will retrogrades be next? It’s always a little extra rush to see a dial come to life with the turning of each hour.
Based on Chopard’s proprietary Quattro technology, the L.U.C 98.06-L movement is equipped with four barrels delivering up to eight days of power reserve, which is a lot for a jumper. Telltales of exceptional quality are the balance-spring (equipped with a Phillips terminal curve that precisely controls the oscillations of the regulating organ) and the swan’s neck regulator (enabling precise adjustment).
And kudos on the choice of a creamy white Grand Feu enamel dial, underscoring the vintage elegance and exceptional quality of this 100-piece limited edition. The whole thing is so beautifully executed, it qualified for the prestigious Poinçon de Genève.
The sport-chic 39mm watch straddles now and then with a sector dial harking back to those Deco days of the 1920s and ’30s, when the Bauhaus design movement defined a new moderne aesthetic. And because form follows function, the dial design with concentric circles is intended to heighten legibility by making it easier to read hours and minutes. Whether or not that’s really the case, it’s still a great look.
L.U.C QF Jubilee taps this retro trend with a silvered sunburst center dial, framed by a bold chapter ring in deep Chopard blue punctuated by chevron hour-markers. A railway-track minutes circle with black markings rings the periphery and a small seconds at six o’clock balances out all those circles.
While its retro spirit is undeniable, after dark, the piece lights up, 21st-century style, with Super-LumiNova on the four main hour-markers, the round base of the chevron-style hour-markers, as well as the spear-shaped hour and minute hands.
Inside, the L.U.C 96.09-L movement leverages Chopard Twin technology to generate a 65-hour power reserve. In addition to COSC chronometer certification, the QF Jubilee is the first L.U.C stainless steel model with Fleurier Quality Foundation certification, a locally established badge of quality. All in all, it’s a sharp vintage-y design on a contrasting brown calfskin leather strap backed by a solid movement.
Rather than look to the past, the Chopard L.U.C GMT One Black and Chopard L.U.C Time Traveler One Black are thoroughly au courant with a contemporary monochromatic black and grey color scheme in a ceramized Grade 5 titanium case that is exceptionally robust, yet light on the wrist.
Chopard claims a world first in using the material for a travel watch. With other applications in aerospace, automotive and medical component fields, ceramized titanium is produced by oxidizing surface layers of titanium at extreme temperatures using electro-plasma technology. This process endows the biocompatible metal with extreme hardness – 700 Vickers (Hv) – that’s twice as hard as Grade 5 titanium and more than four times harder than typical 316L stainless steel. It also resists corrosion.
Whether you opt for the straightforward GMT or the more complex world timer, this pair of closely related sibs promise to be stylish travel companions whenever we can start crisscrossing time-zones without a care again.
First up, the GMT, limited to 250 pieces, is designed for optimal clarity and ease of function. Local time reads conventionally via the central Dauphine hour and minute hands, while a GMT pointer hand tracks a second time-zone on a 24-hour track around the periphery in black and light grey, signifying day and night. Separate crowns adjust each time with the date and local time set at two o’clock, and the 24-disc set at four o’clock, thanks to the L.U.C 01.10-L movement with a 60-hour power reserve.
Also limited to 250 pieces, the L.U.C Time Traveler One Black world timer, a modern take on 2016’s L.U.C Time Traveler One, adds a central date disc and the familiar cities outer ring representing each of the world’s 24 main time-zones, allowing you to simultaneously read the time in any locale.
Showcased through the exhibition case back, the Time Traveler’s finely-finished, self-winding L.U.C 01.05-L movement has an elegant integrated construction, a power reserve of 60 hours, and frequency of 28,800 vph (4 Hz).
With its tonally shaded concentric discs, the dial manages to convey a lot of information clearly and concisely. The central date disc is paired with a pointer hand and framed by the hours and minutes chapter ring for local time with the hands controlled by the crown at two o’clock. A second crown at four o’clock turns the city disc specifying 24 time zones synchronized to local time. Just set the city where you are located to the 12 o’clock position, and the other time zones will read correctly.
Like all L.U.C timepieces with a seconds indication, both the GMT and world timer are COSC-certified chronometers. Each is fitted with a matching black strap in vegan rubber with a woven pattern that resembles fabric. The Swiss-made strap is extremely flexible and resistant to water or sweat, in case you have to launch into a sprint to make your connection. This sportif touch only adds to the pair’s versatility, making them equally at home negotiating in a boardroom or lounging by the hotel pool.
Kicking off Watches & Wonders Shanghai, Chopard released a women’s version of its L.U.C Flying T Twin in two variations that blend the best of both worlds for sophisticated women who know their way around a mechanical movement but still want to sparkle. In 2019, Chopard Manufacture released its first automatic movement with a flying tourbillon, the L.U.C 96.24-L featuring Chopard Twin technology with two stacked barrels and a stop-seconds function for making highly precise adjustments.
The same engine now powers two 35mm women’s models in ethical 18K rose gold or platinum, each set to varying degrees with brilliant-cut diamonds. With an ultra-thin case measuring just 7.47 millimeters thick, this enchanting duo are among the smallest flying tourbillon watches on the market. The one-minute flying tourbillon, which is secured from the bottom, is showcased floating in an aperture at six o’clock, while the cage is topped with a small seconds hand.
The gold version, with diamond-set bezel, flanks, lugs, and crown, is paired with a luminous textured mother-of-pearl dial with brilliant-cut diamonds serving as glittering hour markers – except at 12 o’clock, which is marked with golden Arabic numerals. The platinum version doesn’t hold anything back, embracing all-out extravagance with its dial, case, and lugs fully frosted with brilliant-cut diamonds – even the 22k gold micro-rotor glitters with gems.
Endowed with both COSC Chronometer certification and the Poinçon de Genève, the women’s Flying T Twin once again proves that beauty with brains just can’t be beat.